Rumblings, January 1940

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THE coming of war found all manner of plans abandoned while only partially under way. H. L. Biggs, the Austin exponent of Putney, who in the past has been closely associated with well known racing examples of the Salmson, Amilcar, 0.M., Maserati and other marques, was rather luckier. He just completed a modified Railton to the order of John Cumming, the Australian racing man, as hostilities got going and delivered the car to Tilbury for shipment on his first rations of “Pool.” Even in this instance, plans have been changed, because Cumming is now in the Army and apparently will not race the Railton in Australian dices as was intended, so his wife has the benefit of the new car as a hack. Seeking something new in the quick motor line Cumming came to Europe with his eye on Alfas and 540 Mercs. and the like, but shying at the spares problem, decided to keep faith with American motors. Accordingly, Biggs heated up an open sports Railton for him. The Hudson straight-eight engine had its dynamic crankshaft, rods and flywheel balanced by Laystall, who also checked the truth of the propeller shaft. The block was bored out to some 4¼-litres, and special thick-crown Aerolite pistons were fitted. The Hudson solid aluminium head replaced the standard composite head, resulting in a useful compression-ratio of 7.5 to 1. Ignition is looked after by a Scintilla Vertex magneto, and a 35 mm. down-draught Solex carburetter, fed both by S.U. and mechanical pumps, is used. On arrival in Australia it is proposed to fit a 40 mm. carburetter, probably a Carter, on its own special manifold. The ports occupied some 100 hours not very light labour and are now really nicely smoothed out.

To get over the difficulty of accurately taking up the Hudson big-ends, Biggs replaced the aluminium shims with bronze packing pieces. We believe that on the Light Sports Railton, which we once road tested to 110 m.p.h. and which now reposes at Charles Follett’s, the big-ends were bolted-up solid and the bearings fitted by careful scraping. Biggs has found that K.L.G. L.B. 2 long-reach plugs are entirely satisfactory, in spite of advice to the contrary. As to the chassis, the rear axle ratio was raised from 4.1 to 1 to 3.8 to 1. As the original “Axleflex” suspension quickly wore out a pair of Dunlop racing tyres, and rendered things more than a little vague at around 95 along the Byfleet, it was scrapped in favour of a solid axle and the latest externally adjustable Andre Telecontrol shock-absorbers. A special spare wheel carrier was built up at the rear of the body to bring more weight over the rear wheels, and the best results were obtained by using 16″ x 6.50′ covers on the back, and 16″ x 6.00′ covers on the front wheels. As to the body, the running boards were scrapped and the original wings replaced by light alloy cycle-type, and a certain amount of cutting away was performed. Actually, it is doubtful whether the ultimate avoirdupois came much below the standard scale of approximate 22 cwt.

Cumming had a very pleasant Continental tour with the Railton, visiting several factories where famous fast stuff has its being, and climbing most of the Passes in top cog, thanks very much. After modification some 300 gentle miles were completed at Brooklands, running in and testing, and a speed of 97 m.p.h. was reached on the final test. Biggs drove the car at Lewes before having the motor down. All of which is stimulating news at a time when we must try to forget the charm of very potent urge on 4¼ woolley litres and concentrate rather more on cars like the Fiat ” Mouse ” which is Biggs’s present, personal transport and of which he speaks very highly.

What Did You Do, Daddy . . . ?

In the 1914-18 affair men who were later to become prominent in racing were serving their country ably in various important capacities, just as our present racing and competition men are responding to the call to-day. Picking at random, Woolfe Barnato. joined up with the Royal Field Artillery as a first Lieut., later serving in the Ypres Salient and in Palestine from Gaza to the Jordan Valley.

Segrave left the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, to become a second Lieut. in the Royal Warwickshire, and took part in the battle of Ypres, Neuve Chapelle, Somme, Festubert, twice being wounded in action. He was seconded to the R.F.C. in 1915, promoted to Flight Commander, shot down, and invalided home. He resumed as Staff Captain, R.F.C. at the G.H.Q. of the B.E.F. Later he was appointed private secretary to Sir Henry Norman, Bt., of the Air Council and to Major-General Sykes, Chief of Air Staff. Segrave did important work under the British Ambassador when the Air Force Mission went over to the U.S.A.

Glen Kidston left the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and was involved in the battle of Heligoland Bight and was one of the few survivors when H.M.S. “Hogue” was torpedoed off the Dutch coast. Kidston applied for a transfer to the submarine service and ended the war a fully qualified submarine officer, and he served aboard H.M.S. “Orion” at Jutland. In 1919 he served in the Baltic and the Far East and was appointed to H.M.S. “Dauntless” for the Imperial World Cruise.

Capt. G. E. T. Eyston joined up in the ranks of the Public School Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers and was commissioned in the Dorset Regiment, being appointed Machine Gun Officer. He gained a transfer to the Royal Field Artillery and went overseas with the 21st Division, being wounded after the battle of Loos. He came out of the war with the Military Cross and was twice mentioned in dispatches. He was on the Headquarters Staff, 94th Brigade, R.F.A., A.D.C. to the G.O.C., R.A. 21st Divisional Artillery and served temporarily with the Artillery Staff, G.H.Q.

George Reynolds, who looks after much of our time-keeping, served with the City of London R.A.S.C.. (M.T.), driving W.D. lorries on military duty.

The great French “ace” Boillot was given a very responsible job driving Staff cars.

Lots of enthusiasts will soon be entering the Services. Not a few will wonder whether in this war there will be anything equivalent to the dispatch and transport service operated by Germany last time. Using ex-racing cars like the ’07 G.P. Renault, 1913 G.P. Peugeot and 1914 G.P. Mercedes, this service is said to have operated from Berlin to G.H.Q. in the front line, and to have beaten by four hours the fastest train, a certain section of the run being scheduled at 60 m.p.h. for some 600 miles in the dark. “The Autocar” referred to this interesting means of communication some weeks ago but information about it seems very scarce. Can any reader throw more light on the matter?

Tail-Enders

The latest Bugatti, it seems, is sans a rev.-counter. Asked why this is so, the works is reputed to say that such an instrument is far too noisy to install. Verily, times have changed, for until recently who worried about noise where a Bugatti was concerned?’

H. L. Benn reports that business is not too bad up at Mold and that he actually sold a Bugatti last month.

WHY NOT MODELS?

IN the past, motor-cars have attracted the model maker less than boats, locomotives and aircraft, presumably because while few of us can play with full-size boats and aeroplanes and fewer still have access to real locomotives, the motor-car is a quite common toy. We recall a well known engineer, famous for his locomotive models, remarking to us that each one of them cost more than he had paid for his car—which at the time was a four-seater, air-cooled Rover Eight. Now that real motoring is curtailed, the model car might surely come into its own. Toy cars are far more numerous and a little more like cars than was the case when we were youngsters but, being youngsters no longer, they fail to intrigue. We have attended race meetings of the Model Car Racing Association on an upper floor of “Bunny” Dyer’s big garage, and have been mainly impressed by the unpleasant things that might happen if one failed to jump clear of the swerving, clockwork trucks which compete . . .

Nevertheless, we do not dismiss the appeal of the model car entirely. Indeed, we confess that the prospect of racing petrol driven model cars appeals very strongly. In America they are already doing it. Cars of about 1/5 h.p. and 20 inches wheelbase are timed “round-the-pole,” usually in heats of half a mile, with a quarter-mile final, over a 105 ft. diameter (1/16th mile) course. Last March we described an American two-stroke model sold by Hamley’s of Regent Street, for which 50 m.p.h. was claimed. A recent newsreel showed a group of these cars raced together round an oval track, each car running in a separate channel—at, it was said, 70 m.p.h., which is doubtless a considerable exaggeration. There seems no reason why record attacking ” round-the-pole ” should not be a most fascinating pastime, calling for expert tuning and correct gear-ratios, etc. Last June, an American journal published full drawings for a 1/5 h.p. model bearing a resemblance to the 1922 Indianapolis Bugatti. We shall be interested to learn of any i.c. engined model cars built in this country. So far we seem to keep to clockwork toys; which reminds us that, if the Shucko Mercedes was out of scale, the little Schuko B.M.W. is rather clever . . .

CONGRATULATIONS

On December 14th the British Submarine “Ursula” sank a German cruiser at . . . One of the three officers responsible for a very daring rnanoeuvre was Lieut. R. B. Lakin, R.N. We offer our warm congratulations. While at Portsmouth Naval College Lakin several times took part in motoring events. We passengered with him in the 1985. “Exeter” when his blown Ford Ten blew a gasket before the hills were reached, and rode with him when he drove a supercharged Ford V8 very successfully in the following ” Edinburgh ” trial, in spite of a run big-end near the finish. At this time Lakin ran another Ford V8 and a Jensen Ford Ten as personal cars and had acquired the Cholmondeley-Tapper Bugatti with a view to racing. His increasing Service duties never permitted him to drive the Bugatti; but Seaman deputised for him at the 1926. B A.R.C. Whitsun meeting. He now found that a Naval career seriously interfered with racing, but he continued to run fast cars, in the form of an A.C. “Ace” and a very fine, late-type “2.3” supercharged Alfa-Romeo.